Rite Aid manager fired after defending herself against violent customer over mask

Elena Santiago asked the unknown man to cover his face and offered to provide him with a mask under Pennsylvania's state mandate. He attacked her.

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A manager of a Rite Aid store in a small Pennsylvania town has been fired after defending herself against a violent customer who refused to wear a mask. 

Elena Santiago said that she was fired after an incident on Sept. 3 when a young male customer came into the store maskless. Santiago asked him to put on a face covering, and she even offered to provide him with one under the state’s mandate. 

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The woman said that she was attacked by a customer, then called the police, but when the violent customer heard that authorities had been notified, he again turned to attack her. That’s when she pulled out a small pocket knife and pepper spray. 

Santiago’s encounter was captured on store video.

Santiago explained to USA Today that because she lives alone downtown and walks to and from work, she carried the items for her protection. She alleges that on the day of the incident, she was nearing the end of her shift and had retrieved them from her locker for her walk home. 

After the altercation and before the police arrived, the man broke two large windows of the store from the outside. 

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Despite the level of violence, Santiago received a call from a human resources employee, who informed her that she was being let go for two reasons. The first one was that she was not supposed to enforce the statewide mask mandate, the second being that having her knife had violated the company’s no-tolerance weapons policy. 

Rite Aid spokesman Chris Savarese told Insider in a statement: “For many reasons, we have a no-tolerance policy specific to associates bringing weapons to our facilities and having weapons on their person. The primary reason is to keep our associates, customers, and communities safe, and to mitigate an escalation of any situation.”

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The company found that the presence of Santiago’s protective weapons escalated the situation. 

Santiago, 40, is now looking for a new job after almost five years. The incident remains under investigation by York, Pennsylvania police. 

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